The Book of Job - Part 13

Series: My Preaching Bucket List

February 04, 2018
Brad Shockley

Episode Notes

Last Sunday we learned that Job is a wisdom book, along with Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and Proverbs. Wisdom books are different from other OT books in at least two ways:

  1. They are written in poetry and/or prose. They have a lyrical quality to them, as well as a lot of imagery, symbolism, and feeling. That’s why they are so beautiful (even more so if we could read them in the original Hebrew).
  2. They aren’t meant to convey promises we claim but practical, everyday truths we live by.

Even though Job is mostly poetry, it still contains all the elements of a good story: characters, setting, plot, conflict, and resolution.

There are two main characters in a story.

Protagonist - The protagonist is the central person in a story, and is often referred to as the story's main character or hero. He or she (or they) is faced with a conflict that must be resolved. Job, of course, is the protagonist.

Antagonist - The antagonist is the character(s) (or situation) that represents the opposition against which the protagonist must contend. In other words, the antagonist is an obstacle that the protagonist must overcome. Satan and, in a way, Job’s three (soon to be four) are the protagonists.

The setting is the very ancient and mysterious Near East. It’s culture, technology, religion, and social norms fill the book.

The plot is how Job struggles with intense suffering brought on by a wager between God and Satan (something he didn’t know about) and how his friends attempt to console him.

The conflict is Job’s stubborn refusal to admit wrongdoing amidst the charges of his friends whose worldview rests on the foundational idea that God only punishes the wicked with pain and suffering. Job’s suffering means he must have done something wrong. We hear Job’s heart-wrenching cries of “WHY?!” as he seeks an audience with God, looking for answers. 

Most of the book, we’ve discovered, is a back and forth between Job and his three friends (if you want to call them that). They wax eloquent with their supposed knowledge about the most High God, and Job responds in agony, hurt by their accusations and upholding his innocence.

The story’s climax is carried along as we come to chapter 28, where Job proclaims a truth found across the wisdom books, a truth that trumps all his friends' lofty words about God: 

Job 28:28 (ESV) — 28 And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’ ”

And now that climax heightens as Job delivers his final speeches in chapters 29-31. That’s what we’re looking at today.

In chapter 29 he fondly recalls the many honors he used to enjoy, before calamity struck…

Job 29:1–4 (ESV) — 1 And Job again took up his discourse, and said: 2 “Oh, that I were as in the months of old, as in the days when God watched over me, 3 when his lamp shone upon my head, and by his light I walked through darkness, 4 as I was in my prime, when the friendship of God was upon my tent,

At the top of the list of former honors is God’s favor, which shows the kind of man he is. From that all the other honors flow.  He goes on to add the honor of…

•many children (29:5)

•bounty of provision (29:6)

•position of prominence in society (29:7)

•respect from all, including young and old and the powerful (29:8–11)

•long life (29:18)

•health and vigor into old age (29:19–20)

•wisdom being recognized (29:21–23)

•elevated status (29:25)

He says of the status…

Job 29:25 (ESV) — 25 I chose their way and sat as chief, and I lived like a king among his troops, like one who comforts mourners.

Job was not bragging, he was telling the truth. In ancient Near Eastern times, it couldn’t get any better than this. What a height to fall from! And fall he did through no fault of his own. He went from living like a king to wasting away in a garbage dump.

In chapter 30 he expresses his present suffering…

Job 30:15–31 (ESV) — 15 Terrors are turned upon me; my honor is pursued as by the wind, and my prosperity has passed away like a cloud. 16 “And now my soul is poured out within me; days of affliction have taken hold of me. 17 The night racks my bones, and the pain that gnaws me takes no rest. 18 With great force my garment is disfigured; it binds me about like the collar of my tunic. 19 God has cast me into the mire, and I have become like dust and ashes. 20 I cry to you for help and you do not answer me; I stand, and you only look at me. 21 You have turned cruel to me; with the might of your hand you persecute me. 22 You lift me up on the wind; you make me ride on it, and you toss me about in the roar of the storm. 23 For I know that you will bring me to death and to the house appointed for all living. 24 “Yet does not one in a heap of ruins stretch out his hand, and in his disaster cry for help? 25 Did not I weep for him whose day was hard? Was not my soul grieved for the needy? 26 But when I hoped for good, evil came, and when I waited for light, darkness came. 27 My inward parts are in turmoil and never still; days of affliction come to meet me. 28 I go about darkened, but not by the sun; I stand up in the assembly and cry for help. 29 I am a brother of jackals and a companion of ostriches. 30 My skin turns black and falls from me, and my bones burn with heat. 31 My lyre is turned to mourning, and my pipe to the voice of those who weep.

We feel his pain. And in that pain he’s going to do something desperate. Now to understand what that is we have to look back and see how intensely he wanted to plead his case before God.

Job 13:3 (ESV) — 3 But I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue my case with God.

Job 23:4 (ESV) — 4 I would lay my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments.

He was so sure that if he could just have a word with God, He would find him innocent and restore him. And if not, He would show him his hidden sin and judge him. Either way, at least it would all be over.

There’s something else you need to understand. Remember how I said the book of Job is filled with the culture and social norms of the ancient Near East? One big part of their culture was oaths. They took them very seriously. 

An oath for them was a formal, binding promise to do something under threat of some penalty if not kept.

One scholar said of oaths, "Oaths functioned at the religious, legal, and individual levels as a means of binding the oath taker to his or her word. Oaths were used to confirm the truthfulness of an individual’s word, bind individuals in a contract, or confirm God’s intent to act according to His word. Oaths imposed a great sense of obligation among ancient Israelites; breaking an oath was virtually unthinkable …”

One way an oath was made was to declare an “if-then” situation. If I do this then may that happen to me (and what happens is always bad). Or if I don’t do this then may that happen to me. Basically, a person was saying, if I don’t fulfil the oath, then may I be cursed.

In chapter 31 Job makes this kind of oath, and he’s not making it with mere men, he’s making it with Almighty God.

In his oath he produces a list of sins he’s not guilty of, but if he is then may bad things happen to him. He’s not implying perfection, but integrity. He may have been tempted to do these things but in his devotion to God he didn’t practice them.

He did not…

1. Lust (vv. 1–4)

2. Lie (vv. 5–6)

3. Covet (vv. 7–8)

4. Commit adultery (vv. 9–12)

5. Mistreat his servants (vv. 13–15)

6. Lack concern for the poor (vv. 16–23)

Look here particularly for the oath formula…

Job 31:16–22 (ESV) — 16 “If I have withheld anything that the poor desired, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail, 17 or have eaten my morsel alone, and the fatherless has not eaten of it 18 (for from my youth the fatherless grew up with me as with a father, and from my mother’s womb I guided the widow), 19 if I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing, or the needy without covering, 20 if his body has not blessed me, and if he was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep, 21 if I have raised my hand against the fatherless, because I saw my help in the gate, 22 then let my shoulder blade fall from my shoulder, and let my arm be broken from its socket.

7. Trust in wealth (vv. 24–25)

8. Worship false gods (vv. 26–28)

9. Enjoy an enemy’s misfortune (vv. 29–30)

10. Fail to extend hospitality to a foreigner (vv. 31–32)

11. Conceal of a sin without confession (vv. 33–34)

12. Abuse the land (vv. 38–40b).

Now look especially at verse 35. 

Job 31:35 (ESV) — 35 Oh, that I had one to hear me! (Here is my signature! Let the Almighty answer me!) Oh, that I had the indictment written by my adversary!

Warren Wiersbe says, “Review Job’s oath and you will discover that he has asked God to send some terrible judgments if he is guilty of any of these sins: others will eat his harvest and uproot his crops (v. 8); his wife will become another man’s servant and mistress (v. 10); his arm will fall from his shoulder (v. 22); his harvest will be weeds and thistles (v. 40). He made it clear that he was willing to face the righteous judgment of God (vv. 14, 23, 28) along with these other judgments.

There’s no mistaking what he’s doing. The stakes don’t get any bigger than that. And so…

Job 31:40b (ESV) —  …The words of Job are ended.

Knowing what we know about oaths makes these six seemingly mild words pulse with suspense. Think about it. This is Job’s Hail Mary pass. It’s an all or nothing last-ditch effort to end his pain. 

God was the one addressed here, and it’s up to him to respond. That’s heavy, folks. 

Note how his three friends fell silent.

Job 32:1 (ESV) — 1 So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.

With that move, there wasn’t anything to say. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar held their breath, waiting for fire from heaven to fall down on Job (since they thought he was guilty).

Conclusion: I’ll say it again: the Book of Job surely has all the qualities of a good story. A good story draws us into the struggles of the main character. It causes us to emotionally invest in our protagonist. It carries us along to the climax, and if it’s a really good story, it leaves us hanging in suspense, craving to know the outcome.

Didn’t we all wonder who shot JR at the end of season 3 for you Dallas fans? 

Or who shot Mr. Burns if you’re a fan of the Simpsons?

Or if Captain Picard was lost to the Borg in Star Trek TNG season 3?

Or if Ross and Rachel get back together when Ross says Rachel’s name in his wedding vows to a different woman? I’m trying to cover the bases here.

What’s your point today, Pastor? Chapters  29-31 are a lot to cover in one message, but there is a point in preaching on them all at once.  They are a bridge between all we’ve seen in this tragic account of a man from Uz.

These three chapters take us back to where we started, where we saw the great honor Job enjoyed in the prime of life; they remind us from where he’d fallen and how low he fell; they help us understand his agony as he risks it all in an oath before the God he longed to have stand before and plead his case.

They wrap up things as we finally see the resolution part of Job’s story on the horizon. And they leave us in suspense, wondering what will God do? Will he be silent? Will he act? And that’s important because how God deals with Job in his pain and suffering is meant to be a word to us. It is meant to give us wisdom for living.

We found out who shot JR and if Rachel and Ross got back together, but in the grand scheme of things they don’t really matter.

But how God deals with Job does because it cuts across every parallel of life. How God responds to Job reveals some of the deepest truths about God we’ll ever fathom. In a way, everything in this book points us to what’s coming. And I will go ahead and warn you, it’s not for the faint of heart. It takes into the deepest waters of who God is and how he works.

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